Thursday, June 25, 2009

Delta Force Xtreme 2 Review

Delta Force Xtreme 2, developed and published by NovaLogic.
The Good: New maps and a map editor, online stat tracking, cooperative multiplayer, several game modes
The Not So Good: Tired shooter mechanics, uninteresting and short single player campaign with brain-dead AI, old graphics with poor textures, no significant improvements from the original
What say you? E“xtreme”ly outdated, this first person shooter's numerous archaic properties have not aged well nor changed at all: 3/8

Remember when Novalogic's games were innovative tactical titles? Oh, and those voxels were spectacular. Too bad it’s not 1998, because here we are 11 years later with the latest iteration of the once-proud Delta Force franchise. The last decent title in the series was probably Black Hawk Down, and I had logged extensive play time in Land Warrior (birthday present, I believe). This time, we are takin’ it to the XTREME once more with the aptly-named Delta Force Xtreme 2, sequel to a the original XTREME title that came out four years ago. I swear I played Delta Force Xtreme, although it might have just been the demo. Anyway, four years is long enough to allow for including significantly improved content to further develop the game towards full potential. Right? Maybe not.

One area that has gotten absolutely no improvement is the graphics. Delta Force Xtreme 2 features what I would say are identical textures, models, and effects when you compare it against the original, four-year-old game. That’s quite a bold choice for the developer, eschewing “logic” and convention by not actually making the game look any better. When the Novalogic games were voxel-based, they has a sort of unique appeal to them, but once they joined the rest of the world in pixel-based 3-D land, washed-out and bland textures became the story and Delta Force Xtreme 2 is no different: the game world here lacks detail in every area. Considering that the original game was graphically outdated when it came out four years ago, you can imagine the shortcomings we have to endure this time around. The area that needs the most work is the textures: nothing in the game has any crispness or detail. You would think this might be an easy thing to update (just change some graphics files), but I guess “effort” was not part of the equation when developing Delta Force Xtreme 2. It doesn’t stop there, either: player models are blocky, weapons look horrible, and locations and environments lack any sense of realism. About the only “neat” aspect of the game is the blinding sunlight, but this is the only unique feature of an otherwise awful graphics package. The sound design (as you might expect) holds up better: the campaigns have voiced introductions and the weapons are convincing, and that’s all you really need in a first person shooter. Unfortunately for Delta Force Xtreme 2, having outdated graphics is more of an issue for a first person shooter.

You get an extremely strong case of déjà vu while playing Delta Force Xtreme 2, mainly because it’s the same four-year-old game repackaged with a handful of new maps and missions. The remainder of the game is identical to the original title, which is a sad, sad thing, especially because Delta Force Xtreme 2 is priced at $30 (at least twice what it should be). If you have or played the original game, you can probably stop reading here (if you haven’t already) and safely go back to Delta Force Xtreme 1 (along with the two other people that still play that game) with no regrets. For the rest of you dedicated readers (all three of you!), here’s what you get in Delta Force Xtreme 2.

First off, you get two, count ‘em, two single player campaigns with ten missions…total. You can play with up to four other people cooperatively online, but there is really no point, as the campaign missions are bland, predictable, and more linear than the open nature of the game should warrant. Missions do take place in wide-open, outdoor environments, so you are given a bit of leeway in determining the best course of action: Delta Force Xtreme 2 is not as restricted as more linear first person shooters. That said, the campaigns are not interesting in the least thanks to idiotic AI: enemies are in scripted locations and rarely react to being shot at, do not use cover effectively (or at all), and generally behave like total morons. The only thing they have going for them is numerical superiority, and this is the only thing that makes Delta Force Xtreme 2 challenging at all. I suspect most people will spend their time with the multiplayer portions of the game, and we get a complete retread of past features: five game modes (deathmatch, team deathmatch, team king of the hill, capture the flag, and flagball) and high player counts (the game can support 150 players supposedly, but I never found more than 20 on a single server). A “gold” subscription ($5/month) to the NovaWorld service (included for a month with the purchase of Delta Force Xtreme 2) will also track your online stats, something that most online shooters offer for free. Delta Force Xtreme 2 also features more maps (40 total) with “highly detailed” terrain. I can’t tell the difference between the “new” and “old” maps, so the “highly detailed” terrain must not be that significant. We also have a map editor to make even more content; always a good thing.

Delta Force Xtreme 2 features weapons that any good military organization would have access to: assault rifles, machine guns, sub machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, and explosives. There is a good number to choose from, but they change little in behavior or strategy. I had just as much success using a machine gun as an unscoped assault rifle, so it’s really a matter of preference as to which specific weapon you’d like to shoot people with. It should also be noted that all of the weapons were (again) the same as in the previous game. Delta Force Xtreme 2 also lets you handle some vehicles, a novel feature if it was 2002. Unfortunately, the vehicles handle like arcade garbage: there is no sense of driving along the ground, rather you are floating above it. This is most noticeable driving a jeep on uneven terrain, where you rarely bounce around or have any difficulty adhering to the ground. Plus, the selection of helicopters, APCs, tanks, motorcycles, and jeeps have all been seen before in much better games. Delta Force Xtreme 2 maintains its balance of tactical arcade play. It’s not terrible, but it’s been the same formula for over a decade (since the original Delta Force) and cracks are starting to show just due to the age of the engine. The little things start to annoy you, like extremely high accuracy while running, and the fact that you can run just as fast going straight up an incline than on flat terrain. Xtreme! One area that definitely needed improvement and didn’t get it was the AI. As I mentioned before, they usually do not react at being shot, usually do not move, and only sometimes return fire. They are cannon fodder rather than an actual opponent, and this makes the single player experience of Delta Force Xtreme 2 completely forgettable. For a game that has several areas that need improvement, the developers have decided to add a couple of maps and leave the deficiencies intact. Xtreme!

Delta Force Xtreme 2 is about twice the cost of what it should have been, especially when you consider that the game adds absolutely nothing of note. $30 for a couple of maps? No thanks. Sure, you get a shiny new (I think it’s new, anyway: I don’t recall the original game having one and information on the great Internet is scarce) map editor to add some more content, but Delta Force Xtreme 2 is drastically overpriced for what you get. The game does come with some new content: new maps to bring the total over 40 and a map editor to increase that number even further. You can also play most of the campaign missions cooperatively and there is a good variety of multiplayer game modes, although they were all featured previously. Sadly, this is where the new-ish content stops, as the rest of the game is identical to Delta Force Xtreme. The shooting and ballistics have the same arcade-simulation feel that has been present in the series from day one, so there is nothing innovative there, despite it being not necessarily “bad.” The campaign only consists of ten missions and features terrible, dumb AI that is only challenging in large numbers. The graphics have undergone no noticeable overhaul, an important feature of the usually eye candy rich first person shooter genre. In short, playing Delta Force Xtreme 2 is like playing Delta Force Xtreme 1, and I can’t justify paying $30 to do the same thing over again.